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France’s 2014 census kicks off

January 15th, 2014 No comments
"Gathering today's stats to build tomorrow's future."

“Gathering today’s stats to build tomorrow’s future.”

The French government’s national census for 2014 started January 14th.

The news channel BFMTV has more information here (in French).

I’ve summed up the basics below.

There is also a (French) FAQ guide on the official Insee census site here.

The census allows the government to determine the population of France’s communes (villages, towns, cities), as well as key statistics associated with more than 350 different legislative and regulatory codes related to citizen issues (size of municipal government, budget, how many pharmacies per town…).

About 9 million French households will be concerned this year, as since 2004 the national census has functioned on a rolling basis every year. This means that a household that is part of a sample of the population will on average be surveyed a maximum of once every 5 years. (Before then historically, the census was carried out on a larger scale every 8-9 years nationally).

It is being carried out by 23,000 census agents recruited through different town halls, distributing surveys through the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (L’Insee). These agents will have ID cards with a French flag.

They will be distributing 2 kinds of papers:
1) une “feuille de logement” – “Residential property sheet” which will collect info on the person’s property (house, apartment, condo…).

2) un “bulletin individuel” – “Individual ballot” which each person at the residency will fill out regarding their individual profiles.
Here’s the timing:

For villages/smaller towns: This year’s census starts today January 14 through February 15 for the 7,135 communes of France with fewer than 10,000 residents.

For larger towns/cities: The census goes from January 14 to February 22 for the 983 towns and cities that have more than 10,000 residents, as well as in the Antilles and French Guiana.

For Réunion: The census goes from January 22 to March 8.

Paper and Web versions
Those taking the census can fill out the papers and give them directly to the census agents, or bring them to their local town hall as well as l’Insee. They can also opt for the web version on the aforementioned site www.le-recensement-et-moi.fr for 412 different communes where that option is available. (In 2015, all communes will be available to access the web version).

French national sales “les soldes” start Jan. 11, but are they losing energy?

January 10th, 2012 No comments

Think you had enough shopping done during the Christmas holiday?

The French are getting ready for the national sales around France.

They kick off tomorrow January 11 throughout the country, and you can see a full list of dates here for each département (Paris being the 75th on the list).

You’ll see many départements have sales until February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Background
The French government authorizes stores to use the word “les soldes” as an official sales period twice a year (January and July) to foster economic growth and consumption.

Stores are free to have discounts, special offers and promotions throughout the rest of the year, but they cannot use “les soldes” as an expression outside of these two time periods.
Tomorrow Economic Minister François Baroin will be the MC of the traditional kick-off of the sales period at Galeries Lafayette.

Economic uncertainty?
Despite all the pomp and festivitives, a new poll done by l’Institut BVA and published by Les Echos newspaper reveals that 36% of French consumers think that the national sales do not have a real purpose any more, and this is even more pronounced among younger consumers.

While the sales might be less trendy than last year, and this drop in enthusiasm may be explained by economic uncertainty, 60% of the French still believe that these periods present special opportunities for good deals.

If you do choose to shop, make sure to remember that prices will generally decrease as the time period goes on (up to 80% off in some cases by the end), but that the best items will likely be gone.

You may also want to check out this page for more links and information on fashion and shopping.

Happy Shopping!

US Secretary of State Clinton in Paris Sep 1 to discuss Libya

This just in from the US State Department…

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland

Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 29, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Paris, France September 1 to participate in a senior-level meeting of the Contact Group on Libya. The Paris meeting will build on the productive Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul on August 25 and will provide the international community with an opportunity to further coordinate our financial and political support for the TNC. The days and weeks ahead will be critical for the Libyan people, and the United States and its partners will continue to move quickly and decisively to help the TNC and address the needs of the Libyan people. Libya’s transition to democracy is and should be Libyan-led, with close coordination and support between the TNC and its international partners. The United States stands with the Libyan people as they continue their journey toward genuine democracy.

PRN: 2011/1379

France’s reaction to Bin Laden’s death

This week I write in Bonjour Paris about France’s reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s death and implications for international relations.

Why France is depressed and how it can reform

This fantastic, rather long article by The Economist (April 20, 2011 print edition),“Reforming Gloomy France”, profiles the country’s current pessimistic mood, economy, prospects for growth and entrepreneurial start-up spirit that is motiving many today. It speaks about how the French state of mind is hard to pinpoint and also hope for the future. Excellent read. These are only excerpts below. You can read the full article at the link above, and I’ve made it available for download.

France
Reforming gloomy France
The French are feeling morose about their future. The thrusting energy of their digital entrepreneurs suggests they should not
Apr 20th 2011 | PARIS | from the print edition

BEHIND the bustling terrace cafés and bright municipal blooms of springtime, France today is not a happy place. Tense, fearful and beset by self-doubt, the French seem in a state of defiant hostility: towards their president, political parties, Islam, immigrants, the euro, globalisation, business bosses and more. Such is France’s despondency that its people face “burnout”, said the national ombudsman recently; previously, he had described the nation as “psychologically exhausted”.

It is a sign of French disgruntlement that the publishing sensation of the past six months has been “Indignez-vous!” (“Time for Outrage!”), a pamphlet by a 93-year-old urging his fellow countrymen to revolt. Indeed, the French currently rank among the world’s most pessimistic. Only 15% told a global poll that they expect things to get better in 2011, a far smaller percentage than of Germans or even Afghans and Iraqis (see chart 1)…

…The French seem simply to doubt their politicians’ ability to do much to improve anything. The economy is emerging only slowly from the recession, with GDP growth this year forecast to reach 1.7%, compared with 2.5% in Germany. Joblessness, at 9.6%, is high, and even more so for the under-25s. Although the government has embarked on fiscal consolidation, public finances remain under strain, with a deficit of 7.7% last year. Ordinary working people keep hearing that their high-tax, high-spending model provides them with one of the world’s most generous social systems; yet even the middle class feels a squeeze at the end of each month.

The upshot is a fatalistic France that seems to have set its sights on little better than controlled decline: a middling economic power, whose people cling to their social model and curse globalisation, while failing to get to grips with either. Considering what they hear from politicians, this attitude is perhaps not surprising. The Socialist Party promises, with a straight face, to restore retirement at 60 (the age was recently raised to 62) and urges greater European protectionism as a response to globalisation. Ms Le Pen vows to withdraw France from the euro and put back border controls. Mr Sarkozy’s political day-trip of choice is to a metal-bashing factory—although only 13% of jobs are in industry—where he surrounds himself with workers in overalls and hard hats, telling them they need to be protected from globalisation and other ills.

One conclusion from all this is that France and its politicians are irredeemably conservative. Indeed, France often seems to be in semi-permanent revolt, arms crossed and heels dug in against change. Only last autumn, unions and oil workers led weeks of strikes and blockades in protest at Mr Sarkozy’s modest raising of the minimum retirement age. On a single day, up to 3.5m protesters took to the streets; petrol pumps ran dry across the country. “Why France is impossible to reform”, lamented L’Express, a news-magazine….

…But if the French really are so allergic to change, how come the pension reform not only went through but has now been accepted, even forgotten? Only weeks after the new law reached the statute books in November, the matter did not rank among the nation’s top ten subjects of conversation, according to a poll for Paris-Match. France seemed to go through a painful spasm of rebellion, then to shrug it all off and resume business as usual. “We were able to demonstrate to the French people that there are things that a government just has to do,” argues Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister. “For once, the government did not give in to the street.”…

…By holding firm, and ignoring charges of political deafness, Mr Sarkozy appealed over the heads of those on the streets to the silent majority. He took a bet that this invisible France would quietly back change, and prevail over the rest. For, in reality, two halves of the country co-exist. One half, mostly, but not only, in the public-sector, is led by hard-talking trade unionists promising to prolong benefits for privileged “insiders” and entrench rigid labour laws. The other half, mostly found in the more dynamic, private sector, is plugged into global markets and just as despairing of its strike-happy fellow countrymen as anybody else.

This is the France that does not go on strike, that defies disruptions to struggle into work, and whose voice is seldom heard. It is found among the 92% of workers who do not belong to a union. It is the small traders and artisans who are up before dawn scrubbing their shop-front windows. It is the workforce whose productivity per hour worked is higher than that in Germany and Britain, and which helped to make France the world’s third highest destination for foreign direct investment in 2010. It is the third of private-sector employees who work for a foreign firm. It is France’s leading global companies—Vivendi, L’Oréal, Michelin, LVMH—which busily reap the benefits of globalisation, a force that the French say they deplore.

This voiceless France, more adaptable and forward-looking, seldom permeates the national conversation. Yet a glance at the France behind the headlines hints at a picture that is a lot less glum. Shops are full, markets busy and consumer spending is buoyant. Property prices are up. The French have snapped up the iPad and 20m, or nearly a third of the population, are on Facebook. The French may moan about their country, their bureaucrats and their politicians, but they seem happy with their individual situation. Though only 17% of young people told one recent poll that their country’s future was promising, a massive 83% said that they were satisfied with their own lives.

Home gas prices up in France April 1, up 20% in past year

According to this article published in French magazine Le Point, the Commission de régulation de l’énergie (CRE), the French Energy Regulatory Commission, has approved a request for a price hike in natural gas used for home heating.

The energy company GDF Suez, in which the French government has a 35% stake, requested the increase, which will take effect April 1. The increases have been steady, and this last measure will make rates 20% higher than a year ago, and 60% since 2005.

Consumer organizations, notably association de consommateurs UFC Que Choisir, have voiced discontent with this measure, as the increases over the past year have meant an additional 200€ on average spent by families.

The article specifies that most of the natural gas that GDF Suez imports is based on 20-year supply contrats with countries such as Norway, Algeria and Russia. Pricing for gas prices takes into account the evolution of the euro-dollar exchange rate, the price of heating oil and crude oil and the price of natural gas listed in Amsterdam (or the APX-ENDEX).

Read more in the original article, “Les prix du gaz augmentent de 5,2% le 1er avril, de plus de 20% depuis un an.”

Japan nuclear risks and European worries about nuclear power

As BBC News reports, the current nuclear risks (and potential meltdown disaster) in Japan has brought public fears about nuclear power to the forefront of debate in several European countries, including France and Germany. Some political parties, including the Europe Ecologie, want to hold a referendum (public vote) on nuclear power in France.

Conservative daily Figaro has a poll on this issue, to which, at the time of publication, over 73% of French said there should NOT be a referendum on the issue. As the BBC highlights below, logistically speaking, it is nearly impossible to imagine France getting rid of its reliance on nuclear power, as 75% of its energy comes from it (with 19 nuclear plants and 58 reactors making it the 2nd biggest network after the US). Figaro also has an article about the risks of nuclear power.

French liberal, gauche daily Libération has an in-depth feature on this question, with a map of France’s nuclear installations that I’ve pasted below.

The French government has indeed said it wants to “learn lessons” from this case to optimize the security of France’s nuclear installations, which government officials assure have little risk.

What do YOU think?

BBC excerpts:

“…France gets 75% of its energy from nuclear power, exporting the excess and earning useful currency by so doing. In addition, some in government want to sell French reactors to emerging economies. Greenpeace immediately called for a reversal of this nuclear policy which France embraced in the 1970s after the “oil shock” when the price of oil jumped. The group Sortir du Nucleaire protested by the Eiffel Tower, unfurling banners saying “Nuclear is killing the future”.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, told French radio that there should be a national referendum on the country’s dependence on nuclear power. “It begs the question of the need for civil nuclear power,” he said. “Is it not time to sound the alarm?” This is difficult for the government because France’s dependence is so great.

Internet as big as energy in France: 3.7% of GDP in 2010 and growing

French financial daily La Tribune reports that the Internet sector contributed to 3.7% of French GDP last year, worth 72 billion euros. It cites a report by McKinsey which states that the sector has created a net total of 700,000 jobs in France in the past 15 years.

At 14% annual growth, the sector should reach 5.5% of GDP by 2015, or 129 billion euros, creating another 450,000 jobs in France.

Moreover, companies that invest in new technologies (web sites, intranets…) have reaped the awards: “for every euro spent, they generated 2 euros in operating margins”, according to McKinsey.

The study was presented by Eric Besson, the French Minister for Industry, Energy and Digital Economy (Ministre de l’Industrie et du numérique) and co-fnanced by Google, which has participated in similar studies in the UK.

You can read the original article here and get a free PDF of the report (in French) here.

France to eliminate tax cap, reform wealth tax

France is unfortunately known for its high taxes. One of the recent fiscal measures, le bouclier fiscal or the tax cap (a.k.a. tax shield) limited all direct income taxes to 50% no matter the income bracket. I wrote about this recently on Bonjour Paris. Those who defended it said it lightened the load of taxes, but those opposed to it reckoned it protected the wealthy while not contributing to reducing the deficit and debt.

Recent debate lead up to today’s decision, announced today by Prime Minister François Fillon, to end the policy. (However, some sort of tax cap will remain in place, at an unspecified percentage, for the less well-off, which make up 52% of the beneficiaries). You can see the French article from Le Point at the link above, and the video from BFM TV below.

Below the video, excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article. Next on the agenda: reforming or abolishing the wealth tax (see more in WSJ and Bonjour Paris articles as well as a detailed report by Le Figaro), which could help as many as 300,000 households pay less tax.

What are your thoughts on these developments?

EUROPE BUSINESS NEWSMARCH 3, 2011, 7:38 A.M. ET
French Prime Minister Says Tax Shield to be Abolished

By WILLIAM HOROBIN

PARIS—French Prime Minister François Fillon Thursday confirmed the government intends to abolish a tax shield that has become a controversial hallmark of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.

Mr. Sarkozy decreased the threshold of the tax shield shortly after coming to power in 2007 so that no taxpayer pays more than half their income in taxes. But his ratings have hit record lows and the tax shield has become a thorn in his side as many voters see it as a measure benefiting the wealthy few.

“We have to face up to reality: the tax shield has been misunderstood, and the crisis has probably made our citizens more sensitive to some of its effects,” Mr. Fillon told a conference, organized to discuss the reform of property and capital taxes that Mr. Sarkozy has promised for the first half of 2011.

The tax shield was designed in part to limit the impact of France’s wealth tax, which Mr. Sarkozy also intends to reform before the presidential elections in May 2012.

The government says it will either do away with the wealth tax completely or significantly modify it. Mr. Fillon said Thursday said the reform will free 300,000 households from the wealth tax.

Yet the government is insisting the reform must have a neutral impact on public finances at a time when France is fighting to rein in deficits. If the wealth tax and the tax shield are abolished, the government will need around €3.2 billion ($4.44 billion) to make up the shortfall.

“We won’t finance this reform with debt. Balancing the budget will be strictly respected,” Mr. Fillon said.

He also ruled out a variety of options that have been suggested in recent months. The government will not tax gains on the sale of main residences, will not reverse its reduction of inheritance tax, and will not introduce an additional tax bracket, Mr. Fillon said.

Mr. Fillon also said the reform of capital and property tax is one of the reforms necessary for greater tax convergence in the euro zone.

European leaders are negotiating a competitiveness pact for members of the euro zone. Some countries have balked at Franco-German proposals that they fear would compromise their sovereignty in sensitive areas like pensions and salaries.

Mr. Fillon said France and Germany should aim to harmonize corporate taxes, starting with the base of these taxes before looking at the rates.

New poll finds the French “world champs” of pessimism

January 19th, 2011 3 comments

I enjoy living in France, but it is true that even the French make fun of their complaining as the national pastime. This article comes from Expatica (Anne – Laure Mondesert / AFP / Expatica) and speaks in depth about the poll. Excerpts below. I do have friends who are optimistic, driven and talented, but in my experience here, there is definitely a collective malaise. Cheer up, you have it very good compared to many others!

French are world champs in pessimism
A poll completed early this month shows the French even more pessimistic than violent-ridden countries around the globe, but what’s their reasoning?

Paris –The French live in one of the richest and safest countries in the world, yet they are global champions of pessimism, fearful of the future and longing for the past, according to a survey published early January.

“The French are afraid. They feel the present is less good than the past and that the future will be worse than the present, and that their children’s lives will be harder than their own,” said commentator Dominique Moisi.

“There is a morosity, a real phenomenon of clinical depression,” said Moisi, the author of the 2009 book “Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World.” Moisi was sceptical about the BVA-Gallup poll published that suggested that the French were more pessimistic than people in Afghanistan or Iraqi who daily face high levels of violence.

But he conceded that it had some substance. He and other commentators said several factors were to blame. France’s comparatively generous welfare state is no longer perceived as sufficiently protective in the face of the ongoing economic crisis here, they said.

“The French behave towards the state like teenagers with their parents. On the one hand they rebel, but on the other they want ever more protection,” said Moisi. French pessimism is nothing new. The French are Europe’s biggest consumer of anti-depressants. But their gloomy tendencies have been made worse by rising unemployment and a tense social context that in recent months has seen millions take to the streets to protest raising the retirement age from 60 to 62…

He said that it was above all the middle classes who were being affected by pessimism. They see their jobs as becoming less and less secure and fear their quality of life will be reduced. “The French are sensualists, epicureans… and we are seeing a discrepancy between the little individual joys and the collective malaise,” said Delevoye….

…The BVA-Gallup poll described the French as the “world champions of pessimism.” It found that 61 percent of French thought that 2011 would bring economic difficulties, compared to an average of 28 percent in the 53 countries surveyed. Sixty-seven percent believed unemployment would rise again this year, a more pessimistic view than than in every country except Britian — 74 percent — and Pakistan — 72 per cent. Thirty-seven percent of French people polled said this year would be worse than 2010, making them considerably less optimistic than Afghans — 14 percent or Iraqis — 12 percent. Anne – Laure Mondesert / AFP / Expatica

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